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It wasn’t Barcelona’s fault that I didn't rest

“It wasn’t Barcelona’s fault”, I found myself telling my pilates teacher when he asked me if I’d had a good time. The truth of it was I had a lousy time, and it really wasn’t anything to do with Barcelona.


It was all in my head. It started when we flew along the coast and I could see just how big Barcelona was. My stomach dropped and I realised that a city break wasn’t what I needed.


My business coach is very good at reminding her entrepreneur community that ‘rest is a productive business activity’.


And it's relevant whether you're an entrepreneur, or an employee, or a carer, or a studious student or a busy volunteer.


It's something I wish I'd learnt in high school before I ran out of steam about two months out from final exams.


It's something I wish I'd learnt when I had real burnout for the first time in 2010.


It's something I wish I'd learnt before getting worn out after seven years of doing the same job.


Don't get me wrong, I have loads of holidays. Travelling is my second priority area to spend my income (after my mortgage and household costs). It’s part of the reason why I decided to squeeze in a mid-January weekend away in Barcelona.


I arrived in Barcelona to warm, sunny weather. I was looking forward to seeing the Modernisme architecture, exploring the Sagrada Familia and the old town and being by the beach.


But I just wasn’t feeling it. I spent the first afternoon checking out the Gothic Cathedral and trying to enjoy myself, but to be honest I was a bit flat.


The next morning I walked up to the Sagrada Familia from my hotel (only 15min walk away) in the rain and wondered where my group was. I’d booked a guided tour, but there was no one at the meeting spot. I went into meltdown, which is so unlike me in these scenarios. I’m well travelled and know that these things are really not a big deal.


But unfortunately my peri-menopausal hormones were playing havoc. No amount of rationalisation was changing how I felt.


After about 45 minutes (yes, 45 minutes!) I worked out that I’d got the time wrong. Instead of being five minutes early, I had been ten minutes late. This led to my mood plummeting even more. It was my fault!


In the end I decided to go back to the hotel and call my Mum. It was late for her in Australia, but thank goodness she was happy to have a video call and be with me in my distress.


After that call I made myself go out for a wander, hoping that a little bit of exploring might lift my mood. I love exploring, it’s one of my core values.


I stumbled across a local covered, food and flower market and a nice restaurant for lunch. All the things that I love about a city-break. But still my mood was low. I retreated to the hotel for the rest of the day and night.


First thing the next morning I had my second attempt of the Sagrada Familia. It was well worth it – I spent an hour listening to the guided tour and braving the Nativity Tower staircase. I was pleased I went but still not bouncy with excitement like I normally am exploring a new place.


Afterwards, I took myself off to La Rambla and was very quickly mopey again. I was scared about pick pockets (not something I usually tie myself in knots over, just be sensible about hanging on to my handbag) and not feeling wowed by the market stalls and lanes. So I wandered down to the Gothic Quarter. Again, not wowed.


So I thought, “the beach will do it”. It always does make me feel alive and uplifted. So I decided to keep walking. A while later, I hit the seafront and there were of course, people everywhere. Not even the sound of the sea, the sight of the waves breaking gently and the smell of the salty water lifted my mood.


I’m not exaggerating when I say that is unheard of. I grew up by the Pacific Ocean. The beach is in my blood.


After ten minutes I decided I needed to go home. Not home to the hotel, home to London. Spurred on by the idea of this trip ending early, I hopped on a couple of buses back to the hotel and booked a flight for that evening.


The journey home was not without some saga either, but as soon as I arrived at my flat I knew I’d done the right thing. I spent Sunday alone at home, gathering myself.


I felt ashamed that I had come home early. I didn’t want to admit it as it felt like I’d failed.


I’ve never wanted to come home early before. Even when I was sick in Kazakstan a few years ago and was contemplating whether I needed to fly home or not, it wasn’t because I wanted to. It was because it was a ‘now or never’ moment. We wouldn’t be near any airports for the next seven days. So if I had to fly home, it had to be when we were in the city of Almaty.


Barcelona was meant to be a rest. And in a small way it was a rest from my day to day life. But as you can tell, it was far from real rest.


Real rest is crucial. I hadn’t had a real rest since October when I had a few days away in Dijon with my good friend Carla. I had COVID at Christmas/New Year.


Recently I got some real rest. I spent a wonderful week resting with very close friends and their gorgeous dog on Arran in Scotland. Nothing but fresh air, dog walks in stunning nature, great company, good food and sound sleep.

A beachside view of a village on Arran - blue skies with clouds coming, on a sandy beach and rocky platforms.


I came back to London with a few days quiet time before starting work again, and that was exactly the kind of rest I needed.


If only I’d listened to what my body and mind needed before booking Barcelona, I would have realised that staying somewhere down the coast from Barcelona would have given me some of that rest. It’s a good lesson learnt.




Do you recognise your warning signs for real rest? How do you decide what actions to take to alleviate those signs of needing rest?


Holidays are one way, but there are loads of others. And maybe you need a multi-pronged approach to really put yourself in front.


If you’re not sure what you need and would like some help to think it through, please do reach out.

Coaching could be an option to help figure out what your next steps might be. I have a range of packages available, ranging from a one-off "Fast Flash" session all the way through to eight session packages.

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